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Royal Gunpowder Mills, Waltham Abbey

#1 of 10 in Things to do in Waltham Abbey
Historic Site Tourist Spot
There’s plenty to see and do as you explore the secret island at the Royal Gunpowder Mills with a variety of exciting and informative exhibitions.

Set in 170 acres of natural parkland, there are more than 20 buildings of major historic value. It was known as ‘the island’ due to the network of canals which were developed to transport gunpowder to and from the site.

Step through the gates to discover this ‘secret island’ full of fascinating history and exciting science for a surprising family day out.

Award Winning Film & Exhibition

Travel back through time as this extraordinary film, complete with amazing special effects, takes you on a journey from the discovery of gunpowder to the race into space. Find out how gunpowder and explosives have literally shaped the world – both for good and ill over the centuries.

Discover the hidden truth about this top secret facility which has played a major part in the defence of the realm through the ages. Through a series of interactive displays, find out how gunpowder came to Britain, what life was like between the decks of a warship, how the famous bouncing bomb was developed and the vital role the Gunpowder Mills played in both World Wars.

The Armoury is an impressively comprehensive collection of small arms and militaria, displaying over 200 historic firearms covering the periods from the English Civil War to present day conflicts. Visitors are encouraged to handle and inspect a variety of historic weapons.

Among the new features that visitors will be able to enjoy is the ‘Rocket Vault’ where you will be able to see some of the secret rockets worked on at Waltham Abbey.

Professor Nitrate’s Mad-Lab is a fun-packed series of hands on experiments and activities set within the laboratory of eccentric rocket scientist. The Professor is always on the look-out for willing volunteers to test his latest theories so visitors will need to be prepared for fun-filled and, occasionally, smoke-filled adventures!

Two exciting new temporary exhibitions will showcase the awesome power of the natural world:

‘Feel the Force’ (May Half Term) uses a series of large-scale, interactive exhibits to graphically demonstrate the forces of nature; from smoke rings and bubbles, to the way water flows.

Sparks will fly in ‘Shocking Electricity’ (Summer Holidays), a new exhibition of weird and wonderful experiments for all ages. Make an explosion using just water, experiment with batteries and generators, magnets and plasma globes, and see if you dare touch the electric fence.

‘Women at War’ is a fascinating photographic display highlighting the vital and varied role women have played during wartime. The exhibition perfectly captures the unfolding social history as women took a significant step towards equality.

‘Dangerous Days’ brings together surviving artefacts, explosives-making equipment, pictures and sound recordings which reveal fascinating details about the dangers and heroisms of the people who worked at, and lived near, the ‘Royal Gunpowder Factory’ during the Second World War.

The 1940s Exhibition is an authentic recreation of the sights and sounds of an air raid; visitors can step inside an Anderson Shelter and even peek into a wartime kitchen and back yard. You can also browse in a 1940s general store and post office and see a 1940s toy shop.

For nature lovers, the Wildlife Tower is perfectly positioned on the edge of the woodland, offering visitors a great vantage point with panoramic views to spot the resident wildlife. Get up-to-date information, photos and facts about the wildlife living on the site.

Then take a stroll down the Nature Walk to explore a large section of the thriving woodland from a network of boardwalks, bridges and footpaths.

The Military Truck or Land Train Tours are always popular, offering the chance to see areas of the site which are normally restricted. The area is home to plenty of wildlife and the remains of a number of buildings which were vital to the production of gunpowder on the site.

The tours last about 40 minutes and are accompanied by one of the site’s experienced guides. (There is a small extra charge for land train tours.)

Please see

or call 01992 707370 for more information.
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TripAdvisor Traveler Rating
310 reviews
  • My wife booked us to go along to the Gunpowder Mills on a live History- Theatre and Tea event. The day was a very enjoyable way to spend a Monday. The day consisted off a interactive journey through p...  more »
  • I am very disappointed to be writing this review, especially as I have visited on more than one occasion previously and have given positive reviews. However, today I was incredibly disappointed. We vi...  more »
  • I visited the Royal Gunpowder Mills during half term with my 8 year old daughter and her 8 year old friend and mum. Easy to find and easy to park just off the M25. On arrival we got a map with a timet...  more »
  • This place is an under-visited attraction that pairs the usual with the unusual. We've been a few times now by choose to have our daughter's birthday there which was a real hit and came with some unexpected extras (tea and coffee for parents, a private room for us to use all day and a tour of the 'off limits areas' by army truck. The gunpowder mills (party or not) has an interactive museum (computers, models and more traditional exhibits), a short film or two and separate buildings for science demos (with explosions, natch) and hands-on science exhibits, arts and crafts (including building your own rocket to be fired 100m or so with compressed gas) and a nice cafe. Every so often the mills have special events. We went to a wild west one which was nothing short of spectacular. And then there is the other half of the site... this is a real gem. You can walk around woods and mothballed buildings left to be taken over by nature. It had a weird post apocalyptic feel which is really cool. There is a three storey nature tower which has a few little surprises of its own. In short, a great day out and well worth the entry fee.
  • Girlfriend and I went on Saturday. We really enjoyed ourselves you can spend a few hours here walking around and learning about the Mills. I do think there's so much more potential here, they have so much space and lots of buildings that could be restored and used. The deers roam freely around the grounds so be careful.
  • Took my eight year old son and we had a great three hours, Highly recommend the Professor Nitrate talks for kids and big kids alike. The best review I can give is to say that in three hours we didn't see everything so will have to go back.
  • Great day out with the Family lots of green space and oozing history! Small adventure playground for the kids.
  • A great museum and really enjoyable for the whole family including the trip around the site on a tractor. Very informative it's just a shame I couldn't have stayed for longer.

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